Grief is all encompassing.
It affects every single part of you and your life. And unfortunately, there is no way to prepare for it or learn how to deal with it until it happens to you.
Added to that, our modern society has gotten rid of all of the things we humans used to do to let the world know that we are in the middle of a challenging time. Things such as putting a black wreath on our front door or wearing a black arm band were used in the past to let the world know to be gentle with us. Our society now is very much steeped in a "replacement" culture: just put something, or someone else, in its place and that's all you need to do to feel better.
The bottom line? That doesn't work. It never did and it never will.
You may not like to hear it, but the thing that helps the most? Is letting the grief come over you, sitting with it, and just let it BE.
You cannot rush through grief. It will take the time that it needs and one day, you will notice that you don't ache in your heart the way that you once did. No, you will not "get over it", but you will get through it a little at a time.
Here are a few ways to help you as you walk through your grief:
1. Acknowledge your grief.
Talk about it. Write in your journal (or start writing your feelings down if you don't journal already). Join a grief support group (look online for local groups in your area). Cry.
The more you refuse to let it out, the longer it will stay with you.
2. Don't make any major decisions for at least 6-8 months.
When we make decisions during this time, it's often decisions we would not have normally made under different circumstances. You are now looking at things around you through a different set of eyes. Let things in your life calm down before you make any decisions that you may regret later.
3. Practice radical self care.
If there was ever a time to practice self care, it's now. This is when it's time to get radical about it. Make yourself your own project for the first 12 months after your grief begins. If you can't think of anything when you're in your darkest time, call on a friend to sit with you and write out a list of things you can go back to when you need self nurturing time. This could be foot soaks with Epsom salts, warm baths with lavender essential oil, having a cup of tea when you journal, get a pedicure, creating a small sacred space in your home just for writing our your feelings, taking walks in nature, 10 minutes of quiet time in the morning or after you get home from work, or putting on soothing music when your heart is breaking.
4. Get support.
This can come in many forms: grief support groups, a group at your church, speaking to a trusted counselor, or calling on your most trusted friend. There are typically local support groups in your community for particular life situations: widows/widowers, family illness, death of a child, etc. Local hospices often have wonderful support groups or can tell you of some in your community.
There are also online support groups; these are incredibly helpful for when you're at your wits end at 2:30am and can't sleep and don't want to (or can't) call anyone in the middle of the night.
Please, please reach out or ask a friend to go with you to a local group. This can make all the difference in the world in how you walk through your grief process.
5. Go for a massage.
I am a testimonial to the power of a gentle massage during this time.
When my 2nd husband died from cancer, I got my very first professional massage. It amazed me how much it helped my mind and my soul. It had nothing to do with what kind of massage techniques she performed; it had to do with her gentle and quiet presence and how safe and cared for I felt. I felt supported and nurtured and I hadn't felt that way in a very long time. Just make sure you get a *gentle* massage from a trusted practitioner; your body is already going through enough trauma, it doesn't need any aggressive or intensive massage at this point in time.
Another reason why massage helps with grief is because our body holds onto feelings and memories. Talking out these feelings is good but you've also got to get the body involved. Which leads into the next way to help grief.
6. Get some exercise.
At first, when the grief is searing, gentle is the way to go. Go for walks before or after work. A gentle yoga class is another wonderful way to go. There were many times that I've taken yoga classes that I had tears streaming down my face the entire class; it was cleansing and healing for me. Want to do yoga at home so you can cry your eyes out and stop whenever you need to? Go to www.doyogawithme.com for free, online classes.
When the grief is not as harsh, try some different types of exercise. This is about moving your body in a healthy way that is nurturing to you and your soul.
7. Eat as healthy as you possibly can.
Grief can be harmful to your health as well as your heart and soul. Your blood pressure can sky rocket and your immune system will take a nose dive. Often times, people in the middle of grief will find that they are catching more colds and flu because of this.
Eat fresh salads and lots of fruits and veggies. When it's chilly outside eat warm, nurturing soups and stews. Fruit and green smoothies are good because they are easily digestible and get into your system quickly.
Take gentle care of yourself. You are loved and needed in this world.
Bonnie Rich is a wellness lifestyle blogger and Licensed Massage Therapist. Her mission is to help people in the most vulnerable times of their lives. She is the founder of Massage or Knot, LLC, a massage therapy and wellness company in Orlando, Florida that specializes in massage therapy for women, pregnancy massage and Reiki.